What a Faithful God - 4. Faithful to the Defeated
Lamentations 3: 22 - 23
In 1954 George Beverly Shea introduced a song to Great Britain during the Billy Graham crusade in London. Writing in 1941, Thomas Obadiah Chisholm penned these words of personal testimony: “My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that he has given me many wonderful displays of his providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.” The hymn he wrote is based on our text. He called it simply "Great is Thy Faithfulness." This hymn, which has so encouraged God’s people, is based on a text written during Israel’s lowest moment. Lamentations is written by Jeremiah as he sat amid the ashes of a destroyed Jerusalem, his mood is bleak, his words dark and angry. His tone is one of near-total despair. For most of the book, there is not one word of hope, not one ray of light. Then we come to our text and the light begins to break through. What a challenge this is to all of us. This text is not an answer to the mysteries of life. Nor is it about politics or the circumstances we face every day. It is not a detailed statement about intricate theology. It is rather a word about the Lord. It is a word that declares he is our hope in the midst of hopelessness. He is our light when all around is darkness. He is the way when we can find no way. He is our reason for living when we would rather give up. This text contains 4 phrases. Each one raises and answers a question we need to consider.
1. Why doesn’t God destroy me?
This is not a theoretical question. We all walk closer to the edge than we think. There is a thin line between disaster and prosperity, joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, life and death. Let a car swerve in front of you. Let the bullet come 3cms lower. Let the horse stumble. Let a tiny switch malfunction and the whole plane crashes. Let the train jump the tracks. Let the brakes fail away. Let a stray germ enter our system. Let the lightning flash and in a moment we are gone. Who can understand the mysteries of the universe? Why are you alive today and someone else is dead? Why is it that we have been to many funerals and yet no one has been to ours … yet! Hear the answer of Jeremiah: "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed" (Lamentations 3: 22a). Why doesn’t God destroy us? He could and he should. He could because he is God and He should because we are sinners. Why doesn’t he? Because "of the Lord’s great love." Speaks of love that will not let go because it does not depend on emotion but on an act of the will. God loves us because he promised to love us and nothing can cause him to break his promise.
Leads me to make this point: As bad as things are, if it weren’t for God, things would be much worse. That seems obvious, and perhaps it is, but we need to hear it again. If it weren’t for God, and for God’s love, no matter how bad things are in your life right now, they would be much worse without the Lord. We tend to forget that. Many of us go through life with a sense of - "I deserve this. I’ve earned it." Even when we pray, we think, "I’ve been good so God has to do this for me." How little we understand about God’s grace.
Everything starts with God, not with us. That’s what grace really means. In many ways grace is the hardest doctrine to believe. Even in the church we struggle to believe it. One day C. S. Lewis happened to pass by a group discussing which feature of Christianity most separated it from other religions. Without batting an eye, he responded; "Why, grace of course." He is right, of course.
We like to think that some people are so bad that they are beyond God’s grace. That God saves moderately bad people who are slightly less than perfect, but the really bad cases he sends straight to hell. But I know this much about salvation: It’s either all of grace or not of grace at all.
2. How do I know God will keep on loving me?
"For his compassions never fail" (Lamentations 3: 22b). God’s compassion is plural. It comes in waves rolling down from heaven. James 4: 6 - "He gives us more grace." John 1: 16 - "one blessing after another." I mentioned earlier that many of us have a well-developed sense of entitlement. Along the way we have lost the sense of gratitude for our blessings. I think that’s especially true regarding the simple blessings we receive everyday. The sun will rise tomorrow and you won’t see it. A friend will say hello and it won’t matter, your children will giggle but you won’t smile, the roses will bloom, your husband will offer to rub your back, the band will sing your favourite song, and because it’s ordinary or you’ve seen it before or heard it before or done it before, and because you’re dreaming of the future, you’ll miss it altogether.
How blessed we already are … and how easy it is to forget what God has done for us. How blessed we already are. If only we had eyes to see what God has done for us. His compassions never fail.
3. When will God give me what I need?
"They are new every morning" (Lamentations 3: 23a). Here is a word of hope for fearful Christians. God’s mercies are brand-new every morning. Do you remember the story of the manna in the wilderness? God sent it every day (except on the Sabbath). He instructed the Jews to gather as much as they wanted because it would never run out. However, they weren’t to store it up (except on the day before the Sabbath so they could rest on the Sabbath). In order to drive home his point, God told them that if they stored it up, the maggots would come and spoil the manna. They were to gather enough for each day, eat it that day, and then gather more the next day (Exodus 16). By this means God taught his people to trust him day by day to meet their daily needs. Consider what this means …We never have to live on yesterday’s blessings. They are "new" every morning. God’s blessings are never early but they aren’t late either. They are new "every morning." Today’s mercies are for today’s burdens. Tomorrow’s mercies will be for tomorrow’s problems. Winston Churchill - personal struggles during a hard period when he was Prime Minister of Great Britain. Hoping to console him, his wife suggested that his trouble was really a blessing in disguise. "If so, it is very well-disguised,’ he replied. Many of us no doubt feel the same way about our own problems. We see the trouble, but where is the blessing? We wonder what will happen tomorrow. Will our health hold up or will we have a heart attack or a sudden stroke? Will we end up wasting away in a hospital? What about our children? Will they serve the Lord? What if something happens to them? Who will take care of us in our old age? Singles wonder if they will ever marry. Married couples look at all the divorces and wonder if they will make it. We all have concerns about our career choices and we wonder where we will be in ten years. Let us learn the lesson of Lamentations 3: 23. God’s mercies come day by day. They come when we need them—not earlier and not later. God gives us what we need today. If we needed more, he would give us more. When we need something else, he will give that as well. Nothing we truly need will ever be withheld from us. Search your problems and within them you will discover the well-disguised mercies of God.
4. What is my hope for the future?
"Great is your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:23b). This is the text that became a beloved hymn sung on every continent. Here’s a simple way to bring its truth into focus … Great is our fickleness … Great is your faithfulness. We may grow weary … but our God cannot. We may give up … but our God cannot. We may fluctuate … but our God cannot. We may vacillate … but our God cannot. We may disappoint ourselves … but our God cannot disappoint anyone. We may fail a thousand times … but our God cannot fail, not even once. God’s faithfulness is so great that we may rest assured that when we come to the final bend in the road, he will be there as we make the journey from earth to heaven. Each day we experience God’s love and when we die, we go home to heaven. Can you say that? Do you know that? Is that your personal experience? When your funeral finally comes and some pastor is talking about you, will it be obvious to everyone that you knew Jesus Christ? Or will it be said that you lived for something else? This is our hope for the future—that our God is faithful. We can trust him today, tomorrow, and forever.
Let’s review the 4 questions and see God’s answers: 1. Why doesn’t God destroy me? "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed." 2. How do I know God will keep on loving me? "For his compassions never fail." 3. When will God give me what I need? "They are new every morning." 4. What is my hope for the future? "Great is your faithfulness." One more word from C. S. Lewis and we are done. "He who has God and many other things has no more than he who has God alone." Most of us have many other things. We have money and security and friends and family. But do you also have God in your life? If you do, then the "many other things" don’t matter one way or the other. If you have God, and if you know Jesus Christ, you have enough because our God is faithful.